Sometimes, after a long day of complicated thoughts and more complicated games, I do appreciate a bit of simplicity. Games that take a formula and file it down to its barest parts, and just let you run through the mechanics. Sky Break [official site] might feel damned by such a description, but that's how this open-islands-ish not-quite-survival game plays out for me.
The planet of Arcania was once intended to be a site for human colonisation, abundant as it was in materials and flora. But the silly billies let it become over-run by rebellious drone creatures, who drove the humans away! What a pickle. You, as part of a team of scientists, were meant to be popping down to the surface to recover a cure for something (I swear I tried to pay attention), but you get caught in an electrical storm and crash-land away from your team and away from your target. Your ship is ruined, and you're left on foot, darting about looking for the raw materials you need to make yourself better able to move about, able to island hop, and so forth.
This is presented through clumsy but attractive graphics, with some rather lovely mechanical creatures stalking the long grasses betwixt the trees. There are cat-robots, giraffe-robots, bird-robots, and so on, and in defeating them with your pew-pew weapons, you can enlist them to come to your side, one at a time at first, and help you in your endeavours. Rather oddly these mechanical animals are called "mechas" by the game, despite being in no sense giant robots that humans can stomp about in, so I'll keep calling them robots for the sake of avoiding confusion.
Ammo, health, robo-health, and so on are created through an incredibly simplified crafting system, where your role is simply to gather the resources. Pick up plants, mucus (yum), power cells, mechanical pieces, you get the idea, and then create an ever-growing list of goodies as you power through. On the second island you'll eventually fix up a ship that allows for faster movement and quick travel between discovered islands, as well as providing the ability to gather even better resources via holo-grappled crates.
Thwarting you alongside the beasties are constantly growing storms, that when they reach their peak destroy your shields and eventually murder you with lightning. To control them, you need to gain control of the very prevalent ionising towers that dot the once inhabited lands. To do that you'll require resources that go toward making ioniser batteries. Once a tower's converted, however, you can return to it to quell the storms, if you're short of parts. And wow, ships don't like storms.
The result is a small, simple little game of free exploration with very limited depth, and really that's what appeals to me here. There are so, so very many deeply complex survival games out there, many in rapidly expanding early access, daunting or enticing with their intricacies and challenges. I think this leaves a very welcome space for something far lighter and less involved. It's out of early access now, so its limitations are its limitations, and it's not going to become a complicated affair. It's going to disappoint if approached with such desires in mind, and it's important to take note of that. But if you're after something light-hearted, gentle, and surface level to take your mind off a busy day, it's charming and a breeze.
Sky Break is out now on Steam for £10/$13.50/€13.50.